Many years ago I was fortunate enough to listen to a friend of mine share his life story. During which he quoted from a book that I cannot remember. In the story, within a story, he spoke about a soldier.
It was World War 1, trench warfare was the nature of the day. 2 British soldiers were sent to the frontlines. They were best of friends and had grown up together and loved each other like brothers. It was the first day of the battle for them and it was their task to charge the enemy frontlines. Barbed wire and a bombardment of mortar shells, poison gas and a field of dead bodies lay between them and their target of the day. They were brave and believed in the cause. Their commander shouted, “Charge!”, and the roar of a 1000 men filled the air.
As they stood up one of them was shot and was thrown back down into the trench. The other man went to his side to witness his last breathes. The survivor was stuck there frozen as he looked over the ridge of the trench to witness his whole regiment being destroyed. He laid in the trench, the mud up till his waist. He lay there for days, and then weeks, all the while watching his best friend decompose. He was powerless to do anything about it, he had no choice. The fear and shame he felt was unbearable. Should he charge? He couldn’t retreat, he couldn’t move. He thought about his family, his father, what would they want, and what would they do?
The above is a war story, but its similarities to how an addict feels in addiction are the same. You watch yourself dying and believe there is nothing you can do about it.
I believe I was in a war, call it spiritual or mental, it was good against evil. In the beginning, it was fun, it was all for a bit of a thrill, but it turned deadly very quickly. My war stories could fill an entire book or two. So I’ll keep it short. I’ve lied, stolen, cheated, abused, hurt and deceived everyone that has ever loved me. Done the same to strangers and anyone that crossed my path. I manipulated and lied daily to support my addiction. I’ve done things that I am so ashamed of. I’ve disappointed so many.
I remember one of my closest friends and biggest supporters visited me in a rehab 5 years ago. She said something I’ll never forget. She told me that if I was going to relapse I should rather put a gun to my head as it would be easier for my family to get through me dying than going through me in addiction again. She was right. There is nothing, absolutely nothing worse than watching your loved one fall into full-blown addiction, especially heroin. Possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen was the look on my father’s face the day I came out of the toilet at his workplace. I was withdrawing badly just before and the crazy fever had engulfed me. I was sweating, shrinking into the shadow of myself that I hated being, but was my reality without my drug being in me. I managed to organise a ‘bag’ and had sprinted past his office and straight into the toilet. Out with the spoon, filter lighter… belt around the arm and inject…bliss.
It was that look that broke me. It was his pain and despair I could no longer hide from. How could I keep doing this? How could I keep hurting my loved ones so? My father, a proud man, a man I respected and loved, was a wreck and I had caused it. I realised that day, I had to change.
The above is just one tiny piece of a very small story. I cannot begin to express what a dark and painful place addiction is. It is selfish and lonely, it has no happy ending, it always ends in misery and pain, disappointment and shame.
I have another friend who wrote about me in a short story a few years ago. He described me and my flat in a paragraph…
His apartment smelt of addiction: untidy, a stack of porn VCDs lying around, full ashtrays, collapsed lighters. The redolence of suffocating hibernation in a small imaginary tip. David was thin, emaciated to the point of POW proportions. Yet he was full of frenzied life, jittery, outlandish and loud. His jaw line looked like the forks of a crane, and if you could hear inside his mouth, I bet it ached and grind like one, too. His skin wrapped his skull like a cellophane mask. How he kept a job is unnerving, but as I knew plenty of smackheads in England who held down decent jobs, it was comprehensible. Addiction is like HIV, it’s everywhere and no one knows it.
That was 12 years ago. It took me 12 years to see what seemed to be so obvious to others.
Now I’m in recovery, I know it’s not going to be easy, I am ready, I am willing, and I am determined to replace the dark with light, to correct my mistakes, to make amends. I am a survivor and my family deserves this. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.